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UAL leads international research project on branded content governance

  • Written byKatie Moss
  • Published date13 June 2022
Jonathan Hardy, 2022

UAL’s Branded Content Research Hub, housed in the Media School at London College of Communication, is leading an international research project to examine the regulation, policies and practices surrounding brand-funded content.

Brands are increasingly involved in the production of publisher-hosted content – advertisements which are designed to suit their editorial environment and blend into the platforms with which they appear. For example, brands paying influencers to include their product in social media content.

Branded content is becoming central to media and marketing business and creative strategies. However, in recent years sponsored content, native advertising and influencer marketing have generated controversy, as experts question the impact on editorial integrity, media quality and trust.

Researchers at UAL, University of Stirling and Complutense (Madrid) are working alongside an international network of academic and industry advisers to create a map of branded-content practices that will inform policymaking, support governance initiatives and aid wider public understanding and debate. It will also provide important insights and recommendations for managing and regulating communications in the digital age.

The project, jointly funded by ESRC and AHRC, will provide a detailed, cross-national mapping of the emerging rules and practices for branded content across Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia.

The second stage of analysis will involve UK and Spanish research teams, who will investigate in further detail how branded content governance is practised and understood by practitioners, policy actors and stakeholders, and discussed within professional and public media.

Influencer marketing across social media platforms, grew at twice the rate of advertising overall worldwide in 2017, with double-digit growth forecast from 2021. We want to identify and examine how industry practitioners and trade bodies, regulators and stakeholders are managing and evaluating the process of creating and enforcing rules for such fast-evolving practices. We hope that this project will make a significant contribution to research and understanding by sharing the outcomes and steps involved in mapping and assessing the regulation of branded content across contemporary communications.

— Jonathan Hardy, Professor of Communications and Media at London College of Communication

The project is led by Prof.Hardy (UAL), with co-investigators Prof. Iain MacRury (University of Stirling) and Prof. Patricia Núñez Gómez (Complutense University) and project partners including the Branded Content Marketing Association, Content Marketing Association and openDemocracy.

UAL’s Branded Content Research Hub (BCRH) explores content that is funded or produced by marketers and investigates branded content practices and regulations. You can find out more about the work of BCRH here.